It's funny what you find out on a Saturday night that you didn't know about before. It seems there's a shadowy organisation called "Leeds & Partners" and it has something to do with promoting that city. All well a good and nothing to do with us here in Bradford except:
Leeds and Partners, which is a private company with ownership shared between the council and Leeds Chamber of Commerce, began operating in October when it succeeded the city’s former promotional arm, Marketing Leeds. Its remit has recently been expanded to include the Leeds City Region enterprise partnership which includes neighbouring councils Wakefield, York and Bradford.
So yet again we are reminded of just how unaccountable the delivery of regeneration has become - an organisation set up in Leeds, is funded by Leeds City Council and has just one publicly accountable person, a Leeds Councillor, on its board.
And the consequence of this corporatist, crony capitalism approach is just hwat you'd expect:
Lurene Joseph, who heads Leeds and Partners which is largely funded by Leeds Council, took the taxi from Leeds to her home in Buckinghamshire before taking another taxi to Heathrow airport later the following day at a cost of £57 and then flying out to Boston where she stayed in a top hotel for nine nights.
The total accommodation costs for the trip, which included another Leeds and Partners official, were £6,203 with a further £1,852 spent on flights. Ms Joseph took a taxi from Heathrow back home at a cost of £64.80 when she returned.
The first shocking - but not really surprising - thing about this revelation is that the Chief Executive (a full-time official) doesn't live anywhere near Leeds. And, like so many unaccountable officials, she seems to think that public money is there for her comfort and convenience.
However, the real shock (although again not a surprise) is that Leeds City Council is simply hiding behind "it's a private company":
Leeds and Partners only exists through council-funding which this year amounts to £2m, but the council - which has fielded virtually all media inquiries from the Yorkshire Post - said as it was established as a private company it did not have to provide a breakdown of expenses. Such information was “for internal use only”.
It might be that Leeds & Partners is doing an absolutely fantastic job - it's certainly racking up the air miles - and the City and City Region will be getting huge benefit from this work. But it would a lot better is the organisation was a little more accountable.
In the end, secrecy and cover up - this sort of 'we are untouchable' approach - makes for bad regeneration.